Thursday, May 22, 2008

Social Impact Gaming

After looking around on the sites that were recommended, I chose a few games that I ended up playing for quite a while. The vast selection of game topics was really interesting because there was something for everyone it seemed like. There were definitely some that appeared to be more affective than others. I think having these games is fairly important because it definitely puts players inside the minds or lifestyles of various social problems. However, I am not totally convinced that these games are as great as some claim. Yes, it teaches us a little bit more than we may know about social issues, similar to sites like Indymedia, but I don't know how effective the games are at encouraging people to fight for the issues or make changes in their lives. This would make for a good experiment-to see if social impact gaming has an affect on player's perception of the social problems, and if the players plan on making any changes in their lives after playing certain games.

The first game that I played was the McDonalds game. It was actually very hard to play. I found myself going bankrupt after only minutes of playing. I got better at it the more I played, but I never did succeed at accomplishing anything. What made it so difficult was trying to maintain the farm land, the animal feed, and the actual food service. It was a constant back and forth motion and I could never stay in one place for too long, otherwise I lost track of things in the other areas. It definitely made me think about the reality of this game. When people eat at McDonalds, I don't think anyone likes to think about the cows that are actually used to make their hamburger. What was interesting within the game, was that for the grains and soy, you could choose to genetically alter the crops to create more. In the feed storage area, you could choose to add hormones to the meat that was ground up. It was interesting to think about these aspects because I always hear about restaurants and fast food companies who use these type of alterations within their products to create massive amounts of the product for less money and labor. This game was so complex with all of the aspects that you have to worry about. It definitely made me appreciate the gaming industry because I cant imagine the amont of time and thought that went into creating a small internet game like this one that has not even been seen by the majority of the public.

The second game that I played was Operation: Pedopriest. I am a Catholic, and when I saw the advertisement for this game, I was very curious to see what the game entailed. I ending up disliking this game, primarily because of the subject matter, but also because there didnt seem to be much of a point to playing the game. The game consisted of players watching over a house-like structure that had priests, children, and adults walking around. There were men in red robes, who I believe were bishops or church authorities, who the player is in charge of. These men distract or talk to the police who roam the house looking for priests who have abused the children. Basically, you watched the priests inappropriately touch the children, and your job was to make sure that none of the police came in contact with these priests because they would interrogate the priests and ultimately arrest them. If 2 or 3 arrests were made, you lost the game. What disturbed me about this game was that you had no control over the priests actions, you just had to sit there and watch them touch the children. You could only have control of the people whose job was to keep the inappropriate behaviors a secret from the media and the police. I realize this was a huge controversial issue, but it kind of sickened me that it would be made into a game. It almost promotes child abuse because nothing is being done about the abuse, instead it is being kept a secret. I could rant and rave about my opinion of the this issue, but I will stop myself since that isnt the point. But I guess it is the game's purpose to strike up an interest, or to at least create some sort of emotion within the player after experiencing the game. If this is in fact the purpose, then it succeeded with me because it disgusted me, that is for sure.

If I were to create my own social impact game, I think I would make one about eating disorders. It would consist of the player going through a course where they must get to the end before developing an eating disorder. Of course, there would be setbacks involved in the game. There would be magazines, which would create self esteem issues and would encourage the player to be thing. There would also be groups of friends who were judgmental and who may have eating disorders themselves. Finally, there would be parents who would also encourage the player to lose weight and to maintain a thin body. The player must avoid these setbacks in order to get the end of the course. I would want to create this game because of the prevalence of eating disorders, especially among girls. I believe that there are numerous factors that go into a person developing an eating disorder, including genetics. If society focused on removing these horrible things, girls would not develop eating disorders as much as they are today. I think that the games that focus on health issues are very important and could potentially influence people to live healthier lifestyles.

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